Shocking footage of me in 2014 being an athlete and… ***having a body***
A story that has made it into the mainstream news sphere over the last day that you might have seen is the outrageous body policing within high school swimming in the USA resulting in the disqualification of a 17 year old girl.
“Males shall wear suits which cover the buttocks and shall not extend above the waist or below the top of the kneecap. Females shall wear suits which cover the buttocks and breasts and shall not extend beyond the shoulders or below the top of the kneecap, nor cover the neck.”
This is what Wills was pulled up on, the official who disqualified her said her suit was “so far up [they] could see butt cheek touching butt cheek’’, it’s important to reiterate her that Wills is underage.
Rules around swim suits exist, that’s why we no longer see the ‘super suits’ that extend all the way down the legs, aside from the buttocks and breasts coverage in these rules, this is pretty standard. These rules about ‘modesty’ don’t belong in the sport because they’re not relevant, these rules are shaming and sexualising high school students.
Fina (the International Swimming Federation) does have a very vague decency rule, that “the wearing of the swimsuit shall not offend morality and good taste (in particular, but not exclusively, because of the cut of the suit and body parts exposure whether covered or not)”, however this isn’t really relevant when we’re talking about high-level swimming, because racing suits cover so much of your body to ensure the most streamline shape is entering the water.
I have a lot of thoughts on this, not just as a person, female and feminist, but as a former competitive swimmer.
- I have absolutely no doubt Wills was targeted in the enforcement of this rule because she is curvier and mixed race. It is documented that girls of colour, especially curvy girls of colour are more likely to get pulled up on a dress code violation than white girls. This is a point-blank case of policing the bodies of girls of colour.
- Bathers ride up, thats what happens when you put on a piece of fabric that goes from your shoulders to your butt and then launch yourself off the blocks and pull yourself through the water. It happens to every single one of us, in training, in racing, you’re going to get a wedgie from your suit. Not only was her suit school-issued, it was also approved by the school district, only to have her body be policed for using it. The suit and suits of the same cut were worn by so many swimmers at this meet, so why was only Wills disqualified?
- This isn’t the first time Will’s has been targeted for her body, with a swim parent taking photos of her last year as ‘evidence’ of her attire being ‘immoral’, without consent. Again, Wills is underage, as are her younger sisters who have also had their bodies policed for the same reasons.
- You will struggle to find a standard one-piece suit appropriate for racing that doesn’t show any of your ass as it is, which is kind of irrelevant as is because her suit was provided by the school, but I’m just saying.
- While students are allowed to wear FINA approved racing suits in high school competition, the NFHS’ 2019‐20 Swimming and Diving Uniform Rules states that “It is recommended all swimmers and divers on the team wear suits of identical colouring and pattern.” So therefore it is recommended that swimmers wear what the school gives them, which is clearly going to be (for girls) standard one piece suits, given that female racing suits that you see at the Olympics and such start at around $200 depending on the brand, fabric and cut, don’t last very long and are incredibly easy to tear.
- Continuing on from my previous point, because the suits that are guaranteed to cover your ‘buttocks and breasts’ are so expensive, this rule is kinda elitist. Race suits are an expensive investment and not something you’re going to spend for a few school competitions, especially when it’s ‘reccomended’ that you match the rest of your school, and not every suit will work for every body (surprise surprise).
- However in saying that, I was between a D and DD cup while I was swimming and even in my race suit I would have to adjust it when getting out of the pool to eliminate some of the side boob I’d gathered during a race.
- People have butts, and boobs, get the fuck over it.
- This rule and this disqualification is complete and utter bullshit.
Wills’ disqualification has since been overturned and her win in the 100-yard freestyle reinstated.
I have many more thoughts on this, most of which are me just trying to put how angry this makes me into words.
Policing of bodies, especially teenage bodies, has no place in sport.
Have a read of this article written by Lauren Langford, a swimming coach in Wills’ area. Pay particular attention to this sentence:
“The girl’s younger sister, one of the fastest athletes in the history of Alaska swimming, has told her family and friends she feels as though the community is telling her that her specific body is not appropriate for competitive swimming.”
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that this isn’t the goal of this body policing and shaming.
Wills: you’re a freaking champion and no one can take that away from you.